Motivate Your Sales Team to Power Through the Mid-Year Slump

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This is a Guest bog post from sales and sales management guru Chris Tully.

It’s officially mid-year and given human nature, a time when too commonly Sales Reps find themselves taking their foot off the pedal of their Sales Activity. This doesn’t tend to occur in Q4 due to heavy Sales Leadership focus on closing out the year strong or during Q1 when the entire organization is rallying around new year goals. However, the gap of time from Q2 through Q3 is often when Salespeople are left to self-motivate. This is when it’s essential that Sales Managers are proactive in helping Salespeople stay focused to keep the momentum going.  

I’ve found that in addition to the trend of this period having decreased hands-on sales management attention, there are a variety of reasons that the mid-year slump can be easy for a Salesperson to fall into. The three I see the most often:

  • Sellers being distracted with planning for mid-year vacations in addition to their children being off for summer break.
  • Buyers being less accessible due to summer business activities along with their own personal time off.
  • The mid-year interval simply giving Salespeople a false sense of security that there is “plenty of time left” to finish the year strong and no harm in lightening up activity a little.

To combat these demotivators, Sales Managers need a good pulse on key performance metrics to detect sales sluggishness early on before it turns into bad habits. This visibility prompts the Sales Leader to recognize when to deploy motivation tactics to usher back in the right balance of activities that will protect long-term Sales Goal achievement. Sales motivation tactics need to be tied to the “Dials and Levers” we know directly correlate to influencing “the right” behaviors. They also work well to bring focus to new strategic direction changes that may have been decided upon during a company-level Mid-year Review.     Haven’t completed your Leadership Team Mid-Year Review? Draw from my workshop model to learn tips on facilitating an effective review that assesses how the organization is tracking toward meeting its annual goals, and methods for collaboration when course correction is needed. Access the blog here:  Mid-Year Review: Collaborate to Accelerate Your Business     Sales Management motivation tactics offer various positive results; however, most notably, they sharpen your Sales Team’s focus and stimulate behavior adjustments to feed more strongly into meeting future sales objectives. The following are key steps to take when approaching the development of motivation tactics to ensure they are on-target to correct the break-down areas.   STEP 1: During the mid-year span, assess your sales results from a leading and lagging indicator standpoint asking yourself things such as:

  • Are you ahead or behind on your fiscal-year-to-date (FYTD) Sales Goals?
  • Is your revenue performance trending as you forecasted?
  • Does your Sales Pipeline show adequate volume and predictability?
  • What is your Sales Pipeline projecting for Q3-Q4? This critical timeframe leading up to year-end needs to be secured far in advance.

STEP 2: Isolate opportunities for improvement and develop motivation tactics that have a direct connection to your “Dials and Levers” that drive performance. I’ll get you started with a series of examples after I finish laying the groundwork on these action steps.   STEP 3: Verify your current metric tracking system is equipped to monitor performance on new programs and develop adjustments as needed. Effective tracking is essential in understanding your Sales Rep adoption rate so you know when and with whom attention may be needed.   STEP 4: Develop your Sales Team communication plan before you take action. This is the essence of Sales Management; being connected with your Salespeople, ensuring they understand the objectives for new programs and buy into the benefits to them personally. This may call for individual one-to-one meetings or pulling the group together in a creative way. Invest time in your introduction in a way that aligns with the results you’re looking to achieve.

Let’s drill into what I referred to as “Dials and Levers” in STEP 2. These are the areas you’ll want to focus on to develop your motivation tactics to achieve big impact improvements. Below I’ve laid out a model to relay how you may want to approach this exercise. However, please note this is merely a sample model. To be effective, motivation tactics need to be custom developed to align with your Sales Process and overarching Company-wide Strategy.   To get you started, here is a sampling of how certain problem areas can be tied to a motivation tactic to promote a different outcome:  

Potential Mid-Year Sales Improvement AreasMotivation Tactic Considerations
Sales aren’t closing with desired product mix balance.Feature in-stock inventory promo (box spiffs) Incorporate varying commission model
FYTD sales are X% down from forecast.Establish top account action plans & review cadence Conduct weekly group calls with individual accountability
There’s not enough Sales Pipeline momentum to support Q3-Q4 sales goals.Deploy promo/contents through supply chain partners Establish current customer referral strategy
The same Sales Rep(s) continue to under-perform.Swap-out Sales Rep on untapped high-value accounts Formalize Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
Any of the above or othersUtilize Feedback Model by facilitating idea generation workshop with your Sales Team

Mid-year Sales Sluggishness transcends industries, which is why it’s essential that Sales Management stay attuned to their Salespeople to apply motivational tactics to avoid the slump. It’s human nature for Salespeople to lose focus and momentum, especially during certain times of the year. With impending summer vacations giving rise to false senses of security heading into the second half of the year, it’s key that you have a “finger-on-the-pulse” of your Sales Team. With the proper motivation approaches, you will help your Sales Reps keep their foot on the pedal all the way through to a successful fiscal year-end!

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Pursuing your passion with the Passion Planner

Passion Planner: Get One, Give One by Angelia Trinidad — Kickstarter

This is not a paid endorsement and I have never spoken to anyone at the Passion Planner company. I like their product and wanted to share with our subscribers.

Planners, journals, and organization tools are highly personal. I found this planner in late 2014 while browsing around Kickstarter. What grabbed my attention was the name “Passion Planner.”  And the fact that this was a softcover, lay-flat,2-week-at-a-glance, bound 8.5″ x 11″ book.

I have tried all kinds of paper planners over the past 40 years: spiral, looseleaf, and bound; soft and hard cover, as well as 3-ring and 7-ring binder; small, medium and large; Daytimers, Dayrunners, Franklin Planners, blank notebooks, Moleskine, and other long-forgotten brands. It wasn’t until 2014 that I found what I believe is planner that best fits my work style.

For me, it has just the right amount of flexibility and just the right amount of structure. I hope you’ll check it out.

NOTE: A few times in the past, I tried planner software like Lotus Organizer (remember that from the 1990s?) and a couple of other long-forgotten programs, but never for more than a few weeks at a time. Inevitably I would revert back to paper. For me, I like the actual effort of writing stuff down on paper. With paper, I seem to remember things better, plus I like the tactile feel of highlighting things, and crossing things off, and being able to draw diagrams and charts in a free form manner.

What’s great about the Passion Planner:

They use top notch materials; the binding is high quality, the paper is perfect, and the cover is ideal; soft, slightly padded, and durable

2-page per week layout – I personally prefer the “week at a glance” layout rather than the 1 or 2 page per day

For each month, they provide a “month at a glance” view (granted, most planners have this view also)

Stirtched and bound – Yes, looseleaf is more flexible/customizable by allowing you to add pages, but NOT being able to add pages keeps things more simple for me. I keep folders and binders for loose sheets, but these days pretty much everything can be digitized.

The right amount of structure and the right amount of flexibility

You can learn more about the Passion Planner at their website: https://passionplanner.com

Building the Best Investment Pitch Deck

Early Pitch Decks Of 10 Startups Before They Became Billion-Dollar  Companies | Robin Hood Ventures Philadelphia

This is a Guest blog post by William E. Dyess, “Pitchmaster General” and Principal at TXN Advisors, a Washington, DC-region business consulting firm that provides corporate development, marketing and strategic advisory services.

This post is an analysis of the last 50 pitch decks we received at The Dyess Group’s deck review portal and our strategy on building a winning deck.

The Basics of Deck Building

At The Dyess Group (TDG) we generally follow the Sequoia Pitch Template when building decks for clients, but with our own spin. Whether you use the Sequoia template or not, it is important to follow a thoughtful narrative flow that induces and compels the reader to take the desired action. There are several effective, proven models and suggestions such as the Dale Carnegie Transactional Selling Steps from the 1950s:

  1. Attention (What is the sizzle?)
  2. Interest (Why does it matter? Why does the world need you? )
  3. Desire (Are you better than a traditional solutions to the same problem?)
  4. Conviction (How do you handle objections, what’s the traction?)
  5. Action (Ask for the order, go for the close!)

The important practice here is to design a narrative flow that you believe fits your company the best and make it yours. Below we will present what we have found are the elements often forgotten, missed, or misunderstood when building an effective narrative flow. We do this using the first three slides of the Sequoia model.

Tip #1: Make sure people understand what you do, as quickly as possible (Don’t Waste Your Title Slide!)

We usually don’t hear about what the product or service does until the 5th slide.

The single most important thing you can do in your deck is to make sure people understand what you do. It needs to be in layman’s terms — meaning without using a lot of “marketing speak” and it needs to happen immediately.

When an investor, or any audience, clearly understands what you do, it provides much needed context to the rest of your story. The following is a front slide example from a deck The Dyess Group created for its client company Guac.

An example front slide from a Dyess Group deck

Here is another example illustrating how a very small amount of information immediately helps the reader (e.g., investor, partner, customer) orient themselves properly for the rest of the deck. This is for our customer, Socrates.

Tip #2: Find ways to combine key information into your narrative to make your deck more concise

Roughly 20% of the decks we review have the “Market Size” slide as the one of the first 3 slides.

And it almost always says one thing…the market is big. Unfortunately, putting this information so early is often disruptive to an effective narrative flow. Although Market Size is important and relevant, it is tangential information that can be a distraction at odds with understanding the opportunity. An alternative technique for getting attention with the size of the market is to combine the information with more important aspects of the narrative flow.

Tip #3: Combine traction and the solution to drive conviction to invest early

Only 15% of the decks we review feature customer referrals or actual market traction in the first three slides.

A solution without traction is really just an idea. You haven’t proven that you’ve solved anything. You want to eliminate as much risk from your offering as early as possible by enhancing the reader’s conviction. Introducing your product without any supporting traction in the same slide, or soon thereafter, doesn’t help the reader understand how far you’ve come in solving your problem. Inline with embedding statistics into the narrative, consider including some of the following along with your product:

  • Customer Testimonials
  • Success Rates
  • Total Users
  • Growth Rates

Applying lessons from User Experience (UX) research techniques to your pitch deck

UX research is the unsung hero of your favorite apps. A world leader in research-based UX consulting, Nielsen Norman Group have researched and documented the effectiveness of many UX techniques. We apply their forward-thinking UX methodologies to pitch decks we build for our clients.

UX Techniques

VCs only spend about three minutes reading your deck before a meeting. People can only keep seven things (plus or minus two) in their working memory. You have limited time and space to make your point, so raise the bar with respect to what information makes the cut. Key things to keep in mind through the body of your deck:

  • Reduce the hard work for consuming key information (Rate of Gain)
  • Don’t over-burden the reader with information (Cognitive Load)
  • Be as succinct with your messaging as possible (“BLUF”)
  • Organize information for max understanding (Progressive Disclosure)
  • Give the deck some design basics for strong ethos (Halo Effect)

Each of these is discussed in greater detail below.

Rate of Gain

The Rate of Gain is the value a reader gets from new information divided by how much work that user needs to do to get it.

A measurement used in User Experience to measure ease of use and value to users

In the case of your pitch deck, the user is an investor, partner, or customer, and Rate of Gain measures how valuable the information on each page is divided by how many words are on the page.

This would mean that a good slide would have the most valuable information possible in the least amount of words.

How to have a high Rate of Gain in your content

One of our partners hired a highly coveted speech writer for a Series B raise and the main piece of advice — delete more words.

The best piece of free advice we can give you about your deck is to delete more words.

Cognitive Load

It’s well documented that there are limitations of one’s ability to remember things while doing a task, aka working memory. People have a very finite working memory to consume the content of your pitch. This is why you should use techniques to be as succinct as possible to convey the most value.

A reader may naturally try and determine what information they need to know in order to preserve their working memory. This means giving the reader the ability to triage a page to decide whether or not they need all of the information is a good technique for keeping a user’s memory free to remember the main points.

This really forces you to boil down the words on a page to the point where you keep track of the cost and benefit of each word. Each additional word adds additional cost to the reader to try and understand.

Bottom Line Up Front (“BLUF”)

There is a concept in journalism called the Bottom Line Up Front, you can also think of this as TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read). It’s the same reason that we put an abstract at the beginning of a research paper, or an executive summary at the beginning of a business plan. Respect the reader’s time and tell them the main point up-front so they can triage the page and decide if they need to look at the details or not.

If you use a “headline” based approach you will allow readers to skim the page and decide if it’s something that they think they need to invest the effort to further investigate. If the reader avoids taking in more information than they need, they can arrive at the end of the deck quickly having only read the information they cared about. This will reduce frustration and increase retention and overall satisfaction.

Progressive Disclosure

The concept of progressive disclosure in apps defers advanced or rarely used features to a secondary screen, making the learning process easier and less error-prone. For applications, this means showing the most important features front-and-center and leaving the seldom used, or less important features to be shown later or at the users request. This removes added complexity of needing to understand more features than may be necessary.

Take Google for example. The home page is literally just a search box, and the ability to search (or click I’m Feeling Lucky like I always do).

Now you’ve given the user the option, should they want more information, to go find it. In deck-writing, progressive disclosure serves two ends: keeping the deck clean and succinct, but also allowing the user ready access to any information they would need — perhaps even in an appendix.

Halo Effect

The halo effect is a phenomenon that causes people to be biased in their judgments by transferring their feelings about one attribute of something to other, unrelated, attributes. In the case of decks, the overall aesthetic and cleanliness of the deck will set the sense of sophistication to your reader. The easiest way to create this is to be concise; use abundant white space and be consistent throughout.

  • Consistent margins (white space is your friend)
  • Consistent use of font sizes (we use 32pt and 18pt fonts for everything)
  • Consistent messaging (Whatever you call it, call it that every time)

We’ll cover this topic in more depth later in the series.

Pulling It All Together

The slide design below does a good job implementing the UX techniques we just covered.

  • Rate of Gain: With only two to three lines (tops!) for the main message, the value of the information is high, and the workload to obtain it is low.
  • Cognitive Load: By using the headline approach, we allow readers to triage whether supporting information below the headline is worth further investigation.
  • Progressive Design: Byincluding the path to more information, you let users know that there is a way to learn more. In doing this you also free their minds to focus on the slide at hand.

Fundraising is always hard. Fundraising in the current climate is harder. There has never been a better time to make sure your company can stand out, effectively deliver its message, and spark the interest of investors who will be more selective than ever before. Use the Sequoia Pitch Template and our techniques outlined here to make it easy for them to understand what you do and why your company deserves to be at the top of the stack.

William E. Dyess is “Pitchmaster General” and Principal at TXN Advisors, a Washington, DC-region business consulting firm that provides corporate development, marketing and strategic advisory services. We work in partnership with executive management to save them time and advance the corporate mission by helping them create killer pitch decks, management and investor presentations, board reports, corporate dashboards and the underlying business strategy and messaging to maximize growth and value. William can be reached at wdyess@thedyessgroup.com

Email your deck to deck@thedyessgroup.com for a free deck review.

Company Culture Sustainable in Any Market

This is a Guest blog post from CONNECTpreneur partner and Coach Ines LeBow, CEO of Enterprise transformation Solutions, which specializes in helping early stage companies raise capital.

Company Culture Sustainable in Any Market

Herodotus, the ancient Greek intellectual who became known as “The Father of History” coined the phrase “Culture is King”. Companies rise and fall based on their culture, and challenging situations like we’ve faced here in 2020 test company culture to determine if it’s real or just a façade. In a recent article, I gave advice on how to “Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck”, but as an entrepreneur, are you really able to pandemic-proof your company culture? The answer is a resounding “yes”! In fact, you can create a culture that thrives in any market situation, including Covid and beyond.

Leadership-Driven Culture

How you, the entrepreneur, and the executive team lead at the outset of your business and through “normal” times sets the tone for your culture that will carry you through times that are trying. As Frances Hesselbein so succinctly put it, “Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”

For the leadership team that truly prioritizes the culture of their organization, there are a few core values that will be emphasized down the management ranks to the front-line employees and a call to have the actions of all personnel align with these values. The top core values include:

  • Two-Way Communication – Consistent and ongoing opportunities for the executive team to interact with staff (both speaking and listening) and for all team members to interact with customers (again, both speaking and listening)
  • Engagement – Fostering a sense of ownership and a common purpose throughout the organization to energize all employees and get them working toward a uniting vision
  • Organization Model – What is the composition of your workforce? Do you require staff to be on premises? Are you dependent on contractors or outsourced partners?
  • Wellness and Balance – Setting policies that value employees’ work-life balance, mental and physical health, and general wellness
  • Programs and Tools – Enacting programs and implementing tools that allow employees to thrive in personal and professional development, workplace collaboration, idea innovation, mobile and remote work setups, knowledge sharing, and more

The combination of forced and voluntary business shutdowns that occurred nearly overnight as a result of the Coronavirus response quickly led to 88% of companies that either required or encouraged their employees to work from home, according to a Gartner survey. Some companies were ill-prepared for this rapid shift. Many of the companies with the technical capabilities for hosting a truly remote workforce, however, lacked the type of culture that would keep employees engaged, communicating, and thriving when not in an in-person environment.

Having a great framework in place is essential and must include employees who come to a physical office location as well as employees who work from home, in the field, or from a remote office. As companies return to work, executives and board members are going to re-imaging how the company operates. The old approach of leasing large office spaces may alter significantly, causing companies to adopt a more aggressive mobile and remote work model. Re-thinking how these core values that contribute to the corporate culture can be dealt with is just as important to strategize over.

To learn more about creating an engaging culture or how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

About the Author: Ines LeBow

Ines LeBow

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

Do You Have a Sales Pipeline or a Pipedream in Your Organization?

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This is a Guest Blog Post from Sales and Sales Management guru Chris Tully.

In recent blogs I’ve been writing a lot about the evolving market because it’s especially important in these conditions to have robust processes that lend confidence and set you up for success. When designed and operated properly, your Sales Pipeline is another key tool to serve in this purpose; a proxy to identify what’s going well and what’s not going well with your business. Your organization’s ability to scale is largely dependent on your ability to reliably forecast revenue, which really boils down to the quality and volume of data within your Pipeline. Setting up, leveraging, and monitoring this resource properly enables you to see performance against key metrics and accurately show where your business is headed.

However, there are stumbling blocks that many Owners and Sales Leaders face when they look to formalize their Sales Pipeline methodology. The primary misunderstanding I see is the belief that a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system on its own will provide the on-target visibility desired. This, coupled with too many bells and whistles, makes it easy to lose sight of the primary role of a CRM, to support a well-thought-out Sales Strategy in the simplest method possible. Getting caught up in the technology can lead to a misstep where companies invest in a system without completing the fundamental steps of defining the underlying strategy and associated processes first. 

When designed correctly, process discipline will be reflected in Pipeline performance, but only if the right technology is being utilized and if the salespeople are engaging with the system properly. So, take a moment and ask yourself if you’re operating a solid Pipeline that gives you confidence, or a “PipeDREAM” that frustrates you because of missed forecast projections.

Pipeline-Integrioty-Data-Points

 

Over the years, when it comes to the Sales Pipeline, the key question I commonly hear Owners ask about is, “what’s the accuracy of the data and how do we know if we can rely on it?”   The interplay between people, process, technology, and continual inspection is the secret recipe that creates Pipeline data integrity (valuable, actionable data).    Let’s take a closer look at these main components that feed Pipeline data integrity, “the 4-legged stool” that should support every business.      

1. PEOPLE – Training to foster understanding, adoption, and accountability. Even the best process, procedure and technology will fail without user adoption. The starting point is investing in well-rounded training to help the Salespeople understand how the infrastructure will help them achieve their individual goals; the technology or CRM being just one component. From there, creating advocacy within the team after having the right level of executive sponsorship from the start is the way to achieve essential adoption. This is especially important to motivate potentially stubborn Salespeople who tend to be resistant to change.   Once you are assured that your Salespeople understand how to engage with your Pipeline methodology and see value in it, then it is practical to expect compliance. This will open the door to your Pipeline becoming a powerful diagnostic tool that will allow you to pinpoint underperformance problems that need correction.     

2. PROCESS – Solidifying  repeatable and scalable process/procedure. As leaders, we need to equip our sales teams with tools to guide their success. It is not reasonable to expect Sales Pipeline data integrity until we provide a proven Sales Process and guiding data procedures. When designed properly, these approaches will fuel confidence in new Salespeople and tenured veterans alike. This will naturally occur as they experience or see their colleagues experience that investing in the model generates predictable results.   To learn more about developing a robust Sales Process, read my previous blog:“How’s Your Sales Process Confidence Measuring Up to the Results It’s Generating?”   Guiding data procedures will address data quality around things like sales activity, customer information collection, opportunities that feed into the Sales Pipeline, etc. All these moving pieces work together to provide the Salespeople and Sales Leaders a powerful view into real-time performance indicators that can be leveraged to optimize results. This level of visibility will also prevent the undesirable but common problem in CRM systems of “garbage in, garbage out.”     

3. TECHNOLOGY – It’s not about more, it’s about simplicity. Your technology should make everyone’s lives simpler and more efficient. If you’re an Owner or Sales Leader, ask yourself, “do I have a simple and easy-to-understand dashboard at my fingertips that allows me visibility to see where my business is going?” The most important thing to note is that the best Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is the one that gets used, helps your Salespeople succeed, and assists your leadership team in monitoring progress.   I come across companies that are still using Excel spreadsheets and notepads, and those that have fully integrated and advanced CRMs. In all cases, the first step is to define Sales Strategy and Metric Objectives so the technology can be aligned to the business requirements. Done properly, the technology isn’t the driver, it’s merely a vehicle to deliver on the business strategy. I often recommend scaling technology back to optimize adoption, a key contributor to data integrity. To get and keep users engaged, you will want to have the lightest possible technology structure that can deliver on key metrics.     

Tech-Tips

CRM Adoption Calls for LESS Bells & Whistles
1. Choose a technology that allows your Salespeople to see their productivity improve with its use so that you can avoid resistance to adoption.    2. Align technology to your requirements to create a user-friendly experience, as well as insightful data (clarity on your key measurements/metrics).   3. Make sure that you have only the technology that you need and nothing more.     4. INSPECTION – Tweaking and tuning to optimize data integrity. The fourth leg of the stool, Inspection, is the glue that makes Pipeline performance possible through the application of experienced Sales Leadership. It’s critical that the Owner or Sales Leader holding this seat monitors strategy execution and data integrity through routine Pipeline inspections. This, followed by targeted coaching with salespeople on an individual level, will fine tune sales skills and data entry compliance.  

As more data is available in your CRM system, your organization will benefit from the ability to consider history and trends; identify what’s working and what’s not. This will allow more runway to repair performance breakdowns before Sales Goal achievement becomes hindered. When Training, Process/Procedure, and Technology are all effectively designed and implemented, problem areas become easily identified through the Sales Pipeline. Diving in to inspect problem areas within a solid sales infrastructure will enable the Sales Leader to quickly diagnose root cause problems and apply the appropriate solution. Sales Performance will not be sustainable without ongoing Sales Leadership attention that embodies the full breadth of skills and activities needed to generate high-performance results.


To assess the strength of your current Sales Leadership approach, review my prior blog:“Sales Leadership Impact on Your Business”

In closing, let’s recap – you want your Salespeople only working on prospects with the highest probability of closure. Your properly designed Sales Pipeline will serve as a diagnostic tool to identify sales performance problems if it’s built as the “4-legged stool” I outlined. Just remember, even the best process and system won’t be sustainable without ongoing, effective Sales Leadership.  

THOUGHT PROVOKING TRIVIA ANSWER 70% of CRM projects fail. *   The management of customers and potential customers is critical. However, a key component of a productive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is having a set strategy that the technology delivers upon.   I can help you avoid this misstep that results in a large CRM deployment failure rate. Schedule a time to chat.  *Source: Linkedin.com

About the Author  I am a part of a sub-group of Sales Xceleration Advisors dedicated to pooling our knowledge and expertise to generate insights, tips, and tools to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue. We are seasoned  Executive Sales Leaders that have guided B2B businesses ranging from start-up to Fortune 500. I welcome any special requests you may have for future writing topics.

Chris Tully

Chris is the President of Sales Growth Advisors LLC, a sales consulting firm focused on increasing revenue growth and improving profitability.   He can be reached at chris@salesgrowthadvisor.com.

Chris Tully_Sales Growth Advisors

Marketing with Impact: Four Goldmine Strategies

Marketing with Impact: Four Goldmine Strategies

This is a Guest blog post by Deborah Fell, one of the top marketing experts I know.

Of all the ways to make money, panning for gold is probably among the most difficult. But what if I were to give you all the panning equipment and a map indicating exactly where the gilded stash is buried? A little easier now, right?

Today, I’m here to deliver the precious metals – a goldmine of marketing strategies that, if followed, may not result in gilded nuggets, but instead more customers, more revenue, and a golden future.

First, let’s recognize the obvious – your B2B customer is also looking to uncover some gold. But in their search for a product or service that’s going to fill a very specific need, they won’t be spending a lot of time on the phone or pounding the pavement.

b2b-buyers

According to a recent Forrester study, 92 percent of B2B buyers start with online research in the buying process and spend the largest single chunk of their time (27 percent according to a recent Gartner study) in this activity. As a result, these buyers are nearly 60 percent through their decision before they ever speak with a company’s sales representative. According to FocusVision, B2B buyers consume 13 pieces of content on average primarily from the vendor’s website, internet searches and social media. These buyers likely know as much or more about your company and the competition as you do!

The attached graphic illustrates just how circuitous the route is for today’s customer, from idea to purchase, and the paths they are likely to travel:

https://aliceheiman.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Gartner.png

With virtually all buyers starting their research online, you would be wise to start there, too; however, how you start, and what you do, matters. Otherwise, those valuable buyer eyeballs will shift to another firm that is more adept at creating a connection.

At the outset, I promised you a goldmine – though your results may vary, here are four keys I’ve employed successfully with my B2B clients to help them define their online marketing strategies, and to make them count:

  1. Discover your target customer and his/her buying process:

Have you spent time getting to know your customer segment – I mean, really understanding what makes them tick? What’s the core problem driving the search for solution, and how do they look for solutions and develop requirements? If your discovery only asks about their need for your product, that won’t work because the gold is much further below the surface. With a firm understanding of not only needs and challenges, but the related pain, fear and uncertainty, you can develop an effective strategic and targeted approach to support their research and buying process, and demonstrate that you are the one that “gets” them. Without this, marketing is a shot in the dark at best, and your message will be undifferentiated.

If you also have insight into your target customer’s buying process, broader context of their problem and depth of concern, you can create effective, relevant messaging in the right channels and move the needle in your direction.

Remember this parable: Homeowners are not searching for a hammer when they go to the hardware store — they are looking for something to help secure the nail that hangs the picture and takes the room from an uncomfortable place to a thing of beauty. If you’re selling hammers, it’s your job to understand the problem from the customer’s perspective, and then demonstrate to them throughout their buying journey that you have the superior solution to solve it. Same is true with B2B customers.

  1. Create and execute a clear value proposition.

It’s tempting for people to overlook or overthink this step, thinking there’s no need to re-look or getting lost in the word-smithing. At this stage, we should be focusing on the essentials of the value proposition and putting it into words – answering these questions:

  • What problems do you solve?
  • Who do you solve them for?
  • How do you uniquely solve them?
  • What are the functional and emotional benefits?
  • Why should prospects choose you over any other solution?

Easy, right? But knowing this, and articulating it, are two distinct tasks. Assuming you have the right offering at the right price and are accessible in the right channels, converting this value proposition into brand positioning and messaging will be key to differentiation in your market.

Every aspect of the business, including channel decisions (where to distribute/sell), product/service lines (what to sell) and pricing (what do distributors or consumers pay) are part of the equation. For example, where a company distributes says a lot about the brand. If you distribute in discount channels, you may get some traction fast to start up or to make up for a tough quarter; however, you will become the discount brand. So, communicating what kind of company you are on each of these dimensions is an essential ingredient.

Again, be thorough in your message development and thoughtful in how and where you place it. Often, marketing agencies or consultants will facilitate a workshop to conduct a word exercise and call it a value proposition. That’s not enough. Your value is what your customers perceive it to be, so think through your offering, and what messaging needs to be where.

“Your value is what your customers perceive it to be”

  1. Create a go-to-market plan.

This is where you will create the roadmap to nurture the right type of customer for your revenue-sourcing aspirations. To do this right, and I will insist again, ad hoc marketing has simply got to go. Random tactics will not convey the right message. Messaging in the wrong channel will miss the mark. And the right channel with the wrong message means you are wasting time and money and demonstrating to prospects that you are not the right choice.

This is where digital will take an outsized role: It is critical to have not just an online presence, but an effective online presence. Check this out: As of 2020, there were 1.3 billion websites in the world (with 200 million active websites in the U.S. alone) and 6 billion indexed web pages. That’s information overload, and it comes when B2B buyers’ time is more scarce and more precious. Effective implementation will ensure you’re not wasting it.

“Information is a commodity; time is the scarcity”

  1. Measure and track.

Opinion-based marketing results are out, and disciplined approaches to data and analysis are in. To that end, it’s critical to set specific goals and ROI targets. The days of asking your family and friends what they think of your website are long over! The best solution is to have insights based on real data, and goals that this data can support. Setting targets in this manner creates energy that will motivate the team to focus on accomplishments and success. Ideally, you and your team will have a daily sense of how marketing is tracking, and the insights needed to make timely adjustments to the plan. It’s important to stop what’s not working, keep doing what works or shows promise, and start new initiatives that will amplify the desired impact.

The good news is that this type of analysis need not be expensive. With a minimal investment, any company can measure and optimize its online results daily. Even if you outsource this to an agency, you still need to designate an internal resource to monitor, share, and understand the data. Marketing should report progress in your weekly or bi-weekly leadership team meetings, and the team should be collaborating with sales along the way. Showing a lot of leads but no progress in closing sales is not success. Marketing needs to stay close to the sales team (and vice versa) and elicit insight from them about the quality of leads and the state of the marketplace.

Clearly, there’s gold in “them there” hills. You just need to know your target customer segment and what moves them; how your product and service solves their pain better than anyone else; communicate this market superiority; and track and measure the results.

You have the plan and the map – go get the gold!

Or better yet, watch the webinar recording here: “THE Playbook for Explosive Growth: 4 Goldmine Strategies to Increase Marketing Leverage & Capitalize on Market Recovery”

Deborah Fell

Deborah Fell

Deborah Fell is Area Manager Partner & CMO for Chief Outsiders. She is an expert at helping mid-market to large enterprise companies identify and capitalize on marketing strategies to increase revenue and profitability. Chief Outsiders provides fractional CMOs without the expense of a full-time resource to CEOs who want to accelerate revenue and profits through improved marketing strategies, implementation and leverage.

How’s Your Sales Process Confidence Measuring Up to the Results It’s Generating?

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This is a Guest blog post from Sales and Sales Management expert Chris Tully.

We’re just about halfway through the year and are coming out of an eventful prior 18 months. Finally, we’re seeing enough consistency in the market to take swift and effective action to move forward with a good amount of confidence… something many of us have been lacking for a while. When thinking about how to finish strong in 2021 and the best way to prepare for break-out growth in 2022, ask yourself: “what do I have to do to make sure that where I’m going now brings short-term results and positions us to make a huge difference long-term?”    In my role, I find that sifting through all the parts and pieces of the Sales Organization can be overwhelming for Owners and Sales Leaders, leaving some not knowing how to make heads or tails out of it all. While several areas of your Sales Function may need to be retooled or realigned to match the evolving economy, I’ve found that it’s crucial to begin evaluating the potential for adjustment at the heart: The Sales Process, or as I like to say, “the nucleus that feeds the whole.”

Given the considerable changes these past many months, whatever current Sales Process you had established previously is likely not reflective of new demand. This is due to drastic shifts in the evolving economy, such as how buyers buy and assemble themselves, communication method adjustments, changes in customers’ organization structures, impact to market trends, etc. Beyond these external changes, quite possibly your business has also gone through internal strategic changes relating to your target buyer and customer base. Have you taken time to think about the impact of all these shifts?   

Time and time again, I’ve witnessed it necessary to have a successful or proven process to drive sales success, similarly to process-driven models in other departments. I like to say that hypothetically, this means if you drop a new member into your Sales Team and have them follow the roadmap you laid out, they are able to deliver the same consistent results as other team members. You can dial in this type of repeatable measure of success when you take the time to “look under the covers,” so to say, by evaluating and fine tuning your Sales Process.

However, before you take action on retooling your Sales Process, first let’s work through a couple of self-administered strength tests to determine if you’re working upon a solid foundation. I’ve noted two vital components to consider when determining the effectiveness or completeness of your current Sales Process.

STRENGTH TEST 1 Does your current Sales Process account for the best practice elements outlined in my building block model, and have your salespeople been properly trained on how to navigate the roadmap you’ve given them?

SX-Campaign-19_Building-Blocks-Graphic_v2

Maybe you think that your process is successful and doesn’t need to be rebuilt. That’s great! But, I encourage you to verify this assumption given that the majority of 2,000+ Owners and Sales Leaders revealed that their Sales Process didn’t include the clarity necessary to drive desired results.   

THOUGHT PROVOKING TRIVIA   What percentage of small to mid-sized businesses don’t know what needs to occur at each stage of the sales cycle?   a. 54%   b. 61%   c. 73%   d. 86%   Find out the answer at the end of my blog.

I welcome you to leverage me as a sounding board to learn if there is merit in you investing resources to test the strength of your critically important Sales Process.

STRENGTH TEST 2 Do you see strong evidence that your Sales Process is producing desired results? A comprehensive response may take some investigation on your part. Below, I recommend specific research areas to conduct your due diligence in answering the previous question:

  • Is the Sales Process documented with clarity?
  • Is the Owner or Sales Leader engaged with the salespeople often enough to observe the Sales Process in real-world selling situations?
  • Is the Sales Pipeline showing good movement?
  • Are the salespeople performing consistently?
  • Does the Sales Team regularly achieve forecast accuracy?
  • Are closed deals meeting profitability targets?

I’ll discuss tuning your pipeline and leveraging technology to provide better conversion rate visibility in a future blog.   It’s essential to understand that by comparing your Sales Process confidence to the results it’s generating and taking subsequent action now, you’ll be positioning yourself to finish strong in 2021. Even more impactful, you’ll also be setting yourself up for a record-breaking 2022 and beyond!

THOUGHT PROVOKING TRIVIA ANSWER 86% of small to mid-sized business owners reported that they don’t know exactly what needs to occur during sale cycle stages. * So, how confident are you that your Sales Process is actually delivering the desired results? I can help. Schedule a time to chat.   *Data compiled from 2,355 Owners and Sales Leaders that took Sales Xceleration Sales Agility Assessment® through December 2021.

About the Author  I am a part of a sub-group of Sales Xceleration Advisors dedicated to pooling our knowledge and expertise to generate insights, tips, and tools to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue. We are seasoned  Executive Sales Leaders that have guided B2B businesses ranging from start-up to Fortune 500. I welcome any special requests you may have for future writing topics.

Chris Tully

Chris is the President of Sales Growth Advisors LLC, a sales consulting firm focused on increasing revenue growth and improving profitability.   He can be reached at chris@salesgrowthadvisor.com.

Chris Tully_Sales Growth Advisors

So You’re Healthy… Is Your Organization?

This is a Guest Blog post from my good friend, Beth Berman, master executive coach and Certified EOS Implementer.

Most of us are beginning to go back to “normal” when it comes to our health. We are confident in our immune systems and life has, “started to resume”. Many of us will now schedule long-overdue annual physicals to ensure all of our bodily systems are functioning, just like we would in any year. 

This is all great news. 

But have you given your organization a real checkup lately?

  • Are you sure your people are going to execute above and beyond your expectations this quarter? 
  • Does your leadership team have it all together?
  • Are people in your organization actually seeing your vision clearly? 

If you aren’t 100% positive about the above questions, it’s time for a free 4 minute Organizational Checkup

Crop medic calibrating phoropter working with patient

ORGANIZATIONAL CHECKUP BENEFITS

Strong businesses require monitor their organizations often – at least annually.

 The benefits of a check-up include:

  • A clear picture of what’s working and what’s not, with an opportunity to fix issues before they become debilitating.
  • Getting the Leadership Team on same page regarding organizational priorities.
  • Clear, measurable markers that your organization is improving, every year.
  • Confirming alignment on a single long-term path and driving execution (Traction) of clear steps to get there. 

EOS® clients answer a simple questionnaire prior to beginning the EOS Process™ and then every year thereafter. This annual discipline helps drive the conversations that lead to strong and cohesive organizations.

Want a clear vision, real traction in executing on that vision, and a healthy, aligned team that makes it happen? Contact Beth:  beth@compellications.com

REAL-WORLD COMPANY ALIGNMENT

I recently completed a 2-Day Annual Planning Session with one of my client leadership teams who already are thinking about their strategic plan through September 2022. They completed the Organizational Checkup during our session, as we always do during our yearly off-sites. We celebrated the strong areas. Most importantly, we focused in on the areas where answers skewed from team member to team member (and, of course, where answers were ranked low across the board).

This exercise enabled us to pinpoint the parts of their business that needed the most attention.

Their overall score averaged 72/100.  Companies hit inflection points when they get to 80+/100 in the Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction components, so an 8-point delta really isn’t half bad. The good news is even better when you consider that their original grade was 36/100 (and this is while they were profitable, growing, and doing well. Just not GREAT… yet).

The team was proud to double their score—since starting to work with me 9 months ago—but they know they have more room to grow. They have specific tools and disciplines that will make their recent growth even more sustainable.

With the Organizational Checkup exercise, they pinpointed those exact tools (Quarterly Direct-Report Conversations; predictive, activity-focused scorecard measurables, and a clearer marketing strategy). They now have a strong plan heading into the quarter to address all three immediately. 

Spend 4 minutes and take the Organizational Checkup to the same clarity today. 

Words Have Power: Concise Pitch Decks Pack More Punch

This is a Guest Post from CONNECTpreneur Coach and partner, Ines LeBow of Enterprise Transformation Solutons.

Every. Word. Counts.

So does every second during your funding pitch to potential investors. On average, you’ve got less than three minutes to make your case before your audience gives a mental thumbs-up or thumbs-down on your business idea.

Do the Math

If you’re looking to raise $1 million in seed funding, a pitch deck with 10 slides averaging 55 words per slide puts the value of each word at $1,818. For $10 million in Series A funding, each word is worth more than $18,000. For $55 million in funding, each word is worth $100,000.

Packing more words and details into your pitch isn’t going to make it more appealing or more valuable to your audience. The opposite occurs: it actually devalues the most important information. In essence, you end up burying the treasure.

Word Power

Some of the most successful people have harnessed the power of words to vault themselves to prominence in their respective fields:

  • Rick Rubin, 8x Grammy Award Winner: “There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.”
  • Dianna Booher, Prolific Author and Communications Expert: “People aren’t likely to be influenced by a message they can’t remember. Be clear, concise, and clever.”
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, Renowned Architect: “Lack of clarity is the No. 1 time-waster.”
  • Rudyard Kipling, Nobel Prize-Winning Author: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Be Epically Focused

Investors want your presentation to be brief and on point, but they also want to hear an epic story. Remember, these are people who listen to dozens of pitches each week that are too long, too boring, and too scattershot in their approach. They want you to draw them in and dazzle them with a narrative that is clear, concise, and compelling. So inspire them, inform and educate them, and, most importantly, connect with them.

To start shaping your epic story, consider what prompted the idea for your product or service and what inspired you to start your company. Weave these concepts into a vivid movie trailer-like story that elicits excitement, emotion, and eagerness for what comes next, with the investor playing a starring role in the production.

Funding Pitch Opportunity

If you are an entrepreneur looking for funding and would like to present to potential investors through CONNECTpreneur, please reach out to me.

For more on funding success, here are links to some recent posts I’ve written on the topic:

·        Be Unique, Get Funded

·        Get Funded in 2021: Super Angels

·        7 Factors for Startup Success

·        5 Keys to Convince Investors Your Product Can Make Money

To learn more on how to stand out with an epic fundraising story, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro. You find her on LinkedIn Profile at www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow or her ETS website at www.transformationsolutions.pro.

Make Your Sales Team Thrive: The Importance of Adapting to Virtual Selling

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This is a Guest blog post from sales and sales management expert Chris Tully.

Did you know virtual selling has been in the making for 94-years with the first video call dating back to 1927? Talk about it taking a while for technology to catch on! Learn more about the interesting start to video calls below.

The video call has come a long way to become a regular part of consumer mainstream technology over the last few years. But, over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the corporate world much faster into using video conference calls as a virtual selling platform and for day-to-day customer interaction. This idea brings to mind the old phrase, “It’s nice to put a face with the name.” There is a lot of psychology that goes into how a relationship develops because of the connection in seeing and “knowing” someone’s face and being able to read and react to their body language. There is a certain rapport and trust that is built. Today, the video call is a differentiator attributed to sales success. 

Now that sellers and buyers have embraced the benefits of virtual interaction, there is no going back. Sure, buyers and sellers will begin to meet again in the office, but a full return to in-person selling seems highly unlikely. Owners and Sales Leaders committed to their growth plans need to teach and equip their sales teams to perform at a high level in the virtual-driven business world.

Why is it that buyers continually express that sellers are falling short in how they engage in the virtual selling landscape? It’s due to buyers and sellers experiencing different benefits and challenges from this type of engagement. The internet is alive with online content on this topic, but the primary obstacle sellers face is failing to understand how virtual selling translates in to the three most important areas of sales:

  1. CONNECT – Gaining the buyer’s attention
  2. EARN – Developing trust
  3. SHARE – Presenting solutions

Sellers must understand how different their impact is to their buyer and transform their customer engagement and sales processes from direct human selling. Learning the gaps of virtual selling will create the path to bridging them. Sellers that effectively make the pivot will enjoy many more sales opportunities and create a larger pipeline with a faster sales cycle.

SX-13_Gains-and-Pains-Graphic

Successful virtual selling begins with learning to make connections without direct contact. This idea is directly related to Emotional Contagion, which is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. Back in the 90’s a group of scientists measured emotional contagion in the most effective salespeople nationwide. *This is because 50% of the information in a conversation is non-verbal. This means that we lose a large amount of data intake when we shift from in-person meetings (in 3-D) to video conferencing (in 2-D) due to a dramatically smaller view of the customer and their surroundings. This challenge grows tenfold when the salesperson utilizes solely phone communication (1-D). Although it plays a part, sales success is not because of great products or services. It is the result of an expert understanding of emotions and the ability to navigate them. When a salesperson is face-to-face with a buyer, it is easier for them to understand objection cues, minimize communication issues, ask for the next step, and gain commitment to close the sale.

Emotional-Contagion

Here are ten practical tips to help Owners and Sales Leaders guide their salespeople to more success in the 2-D virtual selling world: Five counter-productive virtual selling behaviors to avoid:

  • Jumping on a call on time but failing to check your audio and video in advance.
  • Wearing clothes that you would not normally wear during a face-to-face meeting.
  • Having poor internet connection that regularly freezes.
  • Failing to prepare in advance to learn the buyer’s interests and needs.
  • Talking too much and not allowing the customer to consistently engage.

Five things that positively influence video calls:

  • Allow ample time between virtual meetings to give yourself the time to mentally prepare.
  • Prep for the meeting by finding ways to connect with buyers to gain and maintain their attention.
  • Learn to manage the sales process with fewer cues (less Emotional Contagion).
  • Continually gain verbal validation from the buyer before moving onto the next topic.
  • Prevent the buyer from taking control and cutting the sales process short.

While the virtual selling world is new, it’s going to stay around quite a while longer and maybe become a permanent part of the sales process. Properly guiding your salespeople through this transformation will ensure that virtual selling is an effective way to grow your sales and business for years to come.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”